Voter Apathy in Europe Seen as a Worrying Sign

Christian Group Leader Cites Bureaucracy and Lack of Accountability

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MILAN, Italy, JUNE 18, 2004 ( The low voter turnout in Europe is worrying, especially among former Communists who participated for the first time in last weekend’s elections to the European Parliament, says a Christian group.

Giorgio Salina, the Italian president of the Convention of Christians Pro-Europe, said that the voter abstentions, as well as the progress of parties that are skeptical about Europe, is «without a doubt a very severe judgment of the European peoples on the Union.»

Participation in the historic vote — the first since last May when the European Union incorporated 10 new member states — was 45.5%, the lowest ever recorded.

Among the older members, participation was 49%, just under the 49.8% of 1999. In the recently incorporated former Communist countries, it was only 26.4%.

Salina explained to ZENIT the reasons for this result. Voting was «for a Parliament with limited sovereignty; there is a government — the European Commission — that does not govern, and that is not elected directly; Europe’s foreign policy has been conspicuously absent in recent international crises, especially in Iraq.»

«The Brussels bureaucracy is seen increasingly as an interference, which gets lost in marginal issues,» he added.

In reference to the draft of the European Constitution, Salina said: «It seems to have divided Europeans instead of uniting them.»

Salina acknowledged that the organizational aspects of the Constitution are important — for example, the number of commissioners per country, or the method to attain a majority in the government. But he said that the debate «does not contribute to give a soul, an identity, to our continent.»

On Thursday, six months after failing in their first attempt, the heads of government of the European Union opened a two-day summit to try to overcome differences with regards to the Constitution.

Salina said that over the past few months, talks on the text have taken place in secret sessions, «while transparency is invoked officially in a loud voice … presenting citizens with a done deed.»

He appealed to political leaders «to construct a Europe of peoples — and not one of foreign ministries, bankers and merchants — valuing the roots, traditions and history» of the continent.

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